Did you ever join a mail-order record club like Beaver Cleaver?

You could build up a sizable record collection for just pennies, but as Beaver learned, there was always a catch!

Subscription delivery services seem to be more prevalent today than ever before. You can get everything from laundry detergent to groceries to curated clothes delivered on a regular basis for a monthly fee. That doesn’t even count the restaurant meals, household items and cars that can now be ordered online with one click.

But mail-order shopping is nothing new. Sears became an iconic brand through its extensive catalogue and many other companies began introducing delivery options for their products in the 1950s.

The music industry was no exception. In 1955, Columbia Records formed the Columbia Record Club, later renamed Columbia House. It gave music lovers the option to buy multiple records for a dollar or less and get them delivered monthly. There were often enticing sign-up offers like free records and discounted phonographs.

Capitol and RCA Records soon developed their own mail-order clubs. At first, artists were exclusive to each company, but over time, music was licensed between each brand. The record clubs thrived for as long as music on physical mediums was popular, from records, to eight-track tapes to cassettes and then even CDs.

Of course, there was more to it than just getting full albums for pennies. The fine print stated that customers agreed to buy a certain number of records for full price later on. There was also a stipulation that you had to fill out a card each month determining your order, or canceling an order altogether for the time being. If you forgot to send the card, you would get the “album of the month” and be charged for it. 

That’s the situation Beaver Cleaver gets himself into in the season six episode “Beaver Joins a Record Club.” His father believes the club will teach him financial responsibility, but the plan backfires when records keep arriving and racking up a bill far higher than Beaver can pay.

Today, anyone can stream whatever song they want or listen to extensive playlists centered around specific genres. Back in the day, we had to decide our musical tastes by checking boxes on a card and waiting for the records or tapes to arrive in the mail. The physical objects gave you as the listener a different connection to the music, however, and don’t even get us started on the superior sound quality!

Did you ever sign up for a record club? Maybe more than one or the same club multiple times to capitalize on those free offers? Let us know in a comment!

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JeffBaker 7 days ago
I never was in a record club but I'm in a book club where I have to order about three books a year. No prob! (I haven't seen this episode yet!)
eddiecantorfan 14 days ago
I heard a song on AM RADIO several years ago with these Lyrics:
We're on a rock and roll band.
We used to be on TV on
Channel Ten"
Does anyone know the name of
That song and who sang that
Song ??
I guess that nobody knows the
Answer To my Question above this comment or how I can find
the answer to my question.
Did a quick search on the lyrics you posted with no match as a result. You might have the lyrics wrong by a word or so. If you remember what station you heard it on you could call them to help with your query.
MClark 17 days ago
I joined my very first record club, the RCA Record Club in 1963 when I was 14 yrs. old. I saw the movie the Pink Panther and I really loved Henry Mancini's cool classic opening of the Pink Panther.
I bought with my babysitting money ($2.98) my very first LP 33 and 1/3 album soundtrack for the classic movie The Pink Panther. I began to love movie soundtracks throughout my teens; and into my adult life I would order LP sountracks from Columbia House. I still have most of those albums (most are over 55 yrs old now) and are collectors items. I still collect film soundtracks today but now they are on CDs or I can listen to them on Spotify.
Pacificsun 18 days ago
I didn't join anything, but my dad did who was incredibly thrifty with money. It must've been Time Life but he loved the Lawrence Welk show much, he wanted to hear more of that type of music (meaning songs featured, not their arrangement). He was very excited receiving his album of the month. And I got interested in music by his playing the music, and so was grateful for that opportunity.
TheSentinel 18 days ago
Who here hasn't been a Columbia House member at some point in their lives?
Jeffrey 18 days ago
During the hey day of the record clubs I had memberships in three different clubs, never bought a lot, just enough to keep the memberships active. As the clubs began to decline, they merged and I found myself with three memberships in one club. First WORD was bought by RCA which in turn became BMG and then BMG bought Columbia House and I had three memberships. I still have a few certificates for free CDs that were never redeemed.
MikeMarshall 19 days ago
Everytime we moved I joined lol
1st time I was 12, last time I was 16. I never received my penny back the last time I tried. I know I got them for next to nothing but they were like Timelife music & made cheap. Love the memories & I know they loved my 8 cents wory of investments ♡
Michael MikeMarshall 18 days ago
I've bought some TimeLife sets used, at a dollar per CD they are worthwhile. But a lot of overlap, and nothing esoteric. I found nothing wrong with the CD club pressings.

If you want bad there were the K-Tel records. A great way to get the latest hits, but I gather they tampered with the recordings to fit more songs o toa record. And weren't some recordings redone for K-Tel? Cheaper than buying rights to the original recordings. Even in the past 20 years I've seen CD sets like that, all excited until I read the fine print "may be new recordings".

Or Pickwick. I once saw one of those, looked like the real thing, but one or two songs missing.
TheDavBow3 21 days ago
I did join the Columbia Record Club in the early 70s. I taped that penny on the application card and sent it in. The anticipation of my albums coming in was unbearable! After 6 weeks, my Mom gave me a letter basically saying my application was denied because they suspected I was not an adult. I cried but I was only 8 years old 😪
Michael TheDavBow3 21 days ago
Did you get your penny back?
TheDavBow3 Michael 20 days ago
😄 unfortunately not. I could've used that penny to try the RCA Record Club 😉
UTZAAKE 21 days ago
Mail-order music clubs remind me of their ridiculous two-page advertisements in LIFE magazine. Featured so many albums, almost all of them with covers of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." Never knew that great Jimmy Webb composition was covered by Bill Cosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Andre Castellanos...er...Kostelanetz, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, etc.
Michael UTZAAKE 21 days ago
But that was mainstream music. I'm not sure how much The Beaver could find of interest. But it was Andy Williamsthat had the tv show, not the Grateful Dead. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 were big, the latter having some covers songs.

At the beginning of the sixties, the parents ruled. Rock and Roll was for the kids, over in the corner. But as the decade progressed, youth increasingly had some control. So Ed Sullivan had The Doors on,but wanted some lyric change.
LoveMETV22 23 days ago
LOL, The series used the mail order theme in a few episodes:
"Captain Jack"- Beaver and Wally mail order an alligator
" Wally's Pug Nose" - Wally mail orders a contraption to change the appearance of his nose.
"Beaver's Accordion"- With a little encouragement from Eddie Haskell, Beaver sends in the mail order form for an accordion.
And the " Beaver Joins a Record Club" episode.
They got some good use of the theme.
Moverfan 23 days ago
I belonged to the Columbia Record Club for a while. Always thought it was interesting that they mentioned records in the name, the print ads showed 8-tracks (the end listing artist/album title) and my albums were on cassette. But man, did I stock up on Springsteen!
Michael Moverfan 18 days ago
The record club continued until it wasn't viable. For a while, 8track was hot, so I think the advertising oriented towards that. I certainly remember ads with 8track used to display titles, a lot easier with the title on the edge rather than full album covers.

Cassettes took over, until CDs took over. I think there must have been fine print if your medium wasn't in the ad.
Moverfan Michael 18 days ago
As I recall, they had boxes on the coupon asking what format you wanted...vinyl, cassette or 8-track. It may have been vinyl, cassette or CD, but I don't remember exactly. Got my first two CDs years later when our now-Fox affiliate ran a conntest in connection with the Beach Boys six-week summer show. I entered at Harmony House (the record store) and forgot about it until I got a letter over a year later saying I won the two CDs and a Sony Discman. They had some kind of problem somewhere, but they did eventually notify winners!
MrsPhilHarris 23 days ago
Never joined a record club but did join a movie club. Same idea where you got a few vhs tapes for pennies then had to buy so many within a year or something to fulfill the contract. I still have some of them at our cabin.
Catman 23 days ago
Record clubs, book clubs, stamps on approval -- all that and more. I never got into any trouble with them, and I still have books that I got from the club 50 years ago and more. Best thing I got from a book club was the two-volume, photographically reduced Oxford English Dictionary. The print is so small you need a magnifying glass (provided) to read it, but it's the full text of the multivolume OED and has been a valued -- and much used -- tool in my library. When I was young, I could read the thing without the magnifying glass, but now I need my specs and the glass. As useful as the internet can be in philological queries, my OED is like an old friend.
Michael Catman 23 days ago
I was very tempted by that offer, but I never took advantage of it.

About 1990, I was helping a friend of a friend move, and their IED set landed on a pile on the sidewalk. So I grabbed it. The magnifier was missing.

I keep it on a higher shelf. Getting it down one time, I dropped one volume on my keyboard, and destroyed the keyboard.

KawiVulc 23 days ago
Always wondered how many people stayed in vs how many did like I did and got out after the minimum purchase. Not sure what age I was... definitely didn't have my driver's license yet, maybe about 14. When I turned 16 & wanted some driving music it was off to the record shop at the mall...
Peter_Falk_Fan 23 days ago
I did belong to Columbia House music club. I think the deal was "buy 8 CDs for a penny and agree to buy 4 more at regular price". I cancelled after my commitment of 4 CDs.



justjeff 23 days ago
In another discussion page I'd noted that I once joined a record club for the CDs, fulfilled my minimum and cancelled quickly. If it sounds too good to be true...
Maverick66 justjeff 23 days ago
Same here. I had the same problem as Beaver about getting them to stop sending me unwanted/unordered albums.
WordsmithWorks 23 days ago
I think Columbia House is still sending cassettes to my childhood home. That penny sure went a long way!
Michael 23 days ago
The Goldbergs had an episode about record clubs. I suspect other shows did too.

Yes, some people got in over their heads. But when I was a member, the negative comments I saw were a dismissal, as if those people hadn't joined theclubs. Few complaints, except in articles wanting towarn people. Or when the local paper had a consumer column, they'd get some people who had problems, and it seemed usually beause they didn't read the fine print.
ncadams27 23 days ago
My only “record” club was one for 8-tracks in 1971. I saw a lot of ads for others in the mid-late 60’s. Sorta sparse on rock ‘n’ roll.
Barry22 23 days ago
Joined one in 1973. Got two Rod Stewarts, two Elton Johns. and one Yes album.
Peter_Falk_Fan Barry22 23 days ago
Was it Yes' "Fragile" album? I really enjoyed that album, esp. 'Roundabout'.
Barry22 Peter_Falk_Fan 22 days ago
Why, "Yes" it was!. my very first album by Yes. made me a fan. had quite a few Yes albums after that, and have seen them twice in concert.
Michael Barry22 21 days ago
Roundabout got airplay, it was the first I heard of the group when it hit a few months after I started to listen to the radio in 1971.

I did get the album from a record club, but about 1998 as a CD.
Jaxter14 Barry22 18 days ago
“Brain Salad Surgery” was a crazy album name but a good album.
Fragile was my first Yes album as well, but I bought it used on cassette at a second-hand record store in 1989. Also bought Close to the Edge as a used cassette and 90125 as a new cassette not long after.
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